How can young people’s first experiences of Israel be at once profound and revelatory, yet predictable and banal? This conundrum was well in place before 2000, when Taglit-Birthright Israel began offering free 10-day trips to Israel to qualifying diasporists aged 18 to 26. But the Birthright machine mass-produces the phenomenon — and now showcases it in the new book, “What We Brought Back: Jewish Life After Birthright” (Toby Press).
The story goes that a certain heathen approached the Jewish sage Shammai and asked to be converted, on the condition that he is taught the entire Torah while standing on one foot. Indignant at receiving such a ludicrous request, Shammai chased the man away. Undeterred, the heathen then approached the sage Hillel with the same request. Hillel replied with what Jews regard as the golden rule: “That which is hateful unto you, do not do unto your neighbor. This is the whole Torah, all the rest is commentary. Now, go and study.”
Blogging about a new illustrated version of Genesis from graphic artist extraordinaire Robert Crumb, Sara Ivry of the online magazine Tablet displays some confusion about her own publication’s genesis.